Isit ethical to kill zombies?
Thebook Walking Dead became popular in an era when the killing of humanbeings, animals, and any other creature is received with mixedfeelings. The author presents the thoughts of the main characterswhich are antagonistic. While Rick is sparked by fear of being bittenand turning into a zombie, Hershel is optimistic that the creaturesmight actually be recovering. The fear instilled by the movingmonsters that yearn for human flesh and with saliva dribbling fromtheir gaping mouths led many people to agree that they did not have aplace in the society. However, before making an emotional conclusion,it would be imperative to put the situation into an ethical context.It is clear that zombies are the outcomes of a given infectiousdisease that can be controlled by avoiding contact with them. Also,since they are animated corpse, there is no chance of reinstatingtheir human condition by using an antidote. The peril posed to humanbeings by zombies, the irreparable nature of their condition and thestripped dignity caused by the effect of the infection in their brainmakes it ethical to kill rather than quarantine them.
Fisrt,it is noteworthy that zombies are animated corpses, and they do nothave a shred of human attribute apart from the physical appearance.The ethical consideration in killing them may lie in the level oftransformation. When bitten, one transforms gradually into a zombieand turns against his friends and relatives. At this point, it wouldbe unethical to kill the individual because it is not clear if thesymptom would become full blown or there could be someone inventing acure. In the book, Rick does not believe that it is a noble idea tokeep them quarantined.
Sincethey are dead, there is no point of letting them survive without thepresumption that they will return to their former states (Sommers).He can kill them without any shred of guilt since the circumstancesnecessitate him to take such actions. As mentioned by Cristofari andGuitton, “The occurrence and magnitude of self-reported guiltdepend on the nature of the action’s consequences.” In the book,Rick observes, “They`re dead. Before they get back up…Before theytry to eat you… They die. You said you saw your son die. He`s dead.Those things are rotting corpses with pieces missing… They`re notsick people… they`re dead” (Kirkman 4). One school of thought mayargue that humans expose them to painful deaths and it is not ethicalconsidering that they were once human. Although such methods are notjustified, they would appear appropriate during an unprecedentedattack by a zombie.
Itis also irreproachable to kill zombies since the dignity that couldbe given to their bodies is erased by their urge to gobble people’sbrains. The desecration of a corpse is highly discouraged. Most ofthe times, people show respect to the dead by giving them dignifiedsend-offs and burying them in designated places (Nasiruddin 5).However, the same cannot be said of a zombie. In the book, the authordepicts a family holed up in the street filled with zombies. Theanimated corpses are out to maul human beings and spread theirsymptoms. It is impossible to devise a mechanism to control themsince no one has an idea about how their brain works or their nextmoves (Sommers). Hershel observes that “I don`t know about you, butthe zombies around here didn`t come with a fucking instructionmanual! We don`t know a goddamn thing about them. We don`t know whatthey`re thinking…what they`re feeling” (Kirkman 36). This isunlike the normal corpses whereby human beings know that they areimmobile and harmless.
Whenthe dead roams the streets in search of people to feast on, they donot deserve the dignity set aside for corpses. In fact, they turnfrom being susceptible to dangerous. The major reason why humans showrespect for the dead is because when in that state, the lifelessforms cannot react and they are at the discretion of the people todecide what to do with them. When they become hunters of the living,the dignity bestowed upon them is stripped and it is only ethical tokill them to avoid future infections.
Besideskilling zombies as a means of self-defense, it is also ethical forprotection against the monster-like characteristics that they assumeafter animation. It is noteworthy that all of them hailed fromfamilies and they have relatives either infected or still healthy. Itwould be unfathomably painful to see a close relative limping acrossthe street with blood oozing from his/her mouth in search of anotherhuman or chicken to devour (Beirne and Cole 7). In fact, theircontinued existence reduces them to non-human beings.
NeilBadminton distinguishes “human” and “non-human” by indicatingthat the former has a rational thought. Therefore, zombies cannotcontrol their emotions, and it is evident that their urge is drivenby either hunger or the need for human flesh. Sommers observes, “Doesnot humanism, by its own construction, anticipate its own?” Sincethe zombies target humans, they could not be incorporated into thesociety. It would be unethical to let human beings who had formerstatus in the family to be reduced to such murk. Taking their lifewould be a form of a merciful death. Hershel mentions that “Shawnwas bitten. It was before we put the barrier around the house. I-Icouldn`t help him he died after a couple of days… and turned intoone of them. I didn`t know what else to do. So I kept Shawn in thebarn. He tried to attack us…to kill us” (Kirkman 32). By failingto kill Shawn, Hershel unethically exposed the rest of the group toattack. He also subjects Shawn to unnecessary suffering andrestriction without even the slightest idea of how he would reversehis condition.
Itcan only be ethical to spare suffering zombies if there wereprospects of recovering their consciousness. In the book, the processis irreversible and incurable. The degradation brought by thecondition seems to lacerate the pre-frontal context and drives allthe brain functions towards the look for food (Sommers). It is alsoworth noting that any cure if it could have possibly been found,would not have brought the zombies back to life. So, by sparing them,Hershel did not have a plan. An individual had to die before turninginto a zombie and wishing their recovery would only be misinformed.However, the condition could be reversed when the early symptomsstarted to show. Supposing that Rick bought into Hershel’s idea tospare the zombies, of what benefit would it be to have hundreds ofthem quarantined yet they would not recover? The most ethicaldecision would be to relieve them the suffering.
Inconclusion, the danger posed to human beings by zombies, theirreversible nature of their condition and the stripped dignitycaused by the effect on their brain makes it ethical to kill them.Zombies do not share human characteristics, and they are a threat toothers since the condition is infectious. Since they are alreadydead, sparing them only adds to their misery. Killing them alsoguards the dignity that they once enjoyed when they were alive.Hershel’s dilemma to kill or spare Shawn is a model indication ofthe cost that individuals have to pay (in the book) to remain aliveand ensure the safety of others. Executing them would also be theonly immediate way to prevent further infections.
Beirne,Heather, and Ashley Cole. "The Walking Dead: Playing by NewRules (Morality and Ethics in the Zombie Apocalypse." (2014).Print.
Cristofari,Cécile, and Matthieu J. Guitton. "Surviving at Any Cost: GuiltExpression Following Extreme Ethical Conflicts in a Virtual Setting."PloSone9.7 (2014): e101711. Print.
Kirkman,Robert. "The Walking Dead: Book 3." (2007). Print.
Nasiruddin,Melissa. "Zombies–a pop culture resource for public healthawareness." Emerginginfectious diseases19.5 (2013). Print.
Sommers,Joseph Michael. "When the Zombies Came for Our Children:Exploring Posthumanism in Robert Kirkman`s The Walking Dead."TheComics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.6 (2016). Print.